Art review: Leon Kossoff – London Landscapes, Annely Juda Fine Art, London
Tuesday 14 May 2013
A small correction. Kossoff does not paint landscapes. He paints and draws the cityscapes of London, and he has been doing so for the last sixty years or so.
Recently he painted and drew a heroically decrepit cherry tree in an urban garden, but, generally speaking, nature is present almost by default. He is 86 years old now, and the most recent works in this show, a suite of drawings dated 2012, see him returning to Arnold Circus in Shoreditch, the locale of his childhood, much changed since his boyhood days as the son of a Jewish baker.
Kossoff is utterly besotted by London, and its physical metamorphoses. If the Blitz and its aftermath had not happened, Kossoff might just have been temped to invent it. It's a smutty place, Kossoff's London, congested, seething, murky, messy, relentlessly itself, and usually rendered in a mixture of charcoal and pastel.
Just imagine the sight of his finger ends. He used to draw and paint it in a mood akin to frenzy, with ferocious slashings and wrigglings of marks. The colours were most often sombre - greys edging off to black. He has always loved architectural decrepitude, often seen from a fairly high view point: gantries; a gasometer ; the demolition site; conventionally unlovely industrial locations; places between places; grubby edgelands.
Bridges fling themselves from one bank to another like a headlong flourish of muscle. In some of his best drawings, he has shown us railway tracks in the half-light peeling away from us into a kind of blurry nowhere. Or the silvery bullet nose of a train – like some wild apparition – speeding by the end of a garden, half hidden by a tree. His people are frenzied bit players, puppet-like often, utterly humdrum in appearance. They exist to prove to us that nothing ever stops or falters – at the market, in the riotously overcrowded swimming pool, outside Embankment underground station.
But in the last year something has changed a little. These late drawings of Arnold Circus are a little different in touch and mood. The atmosphere seems to have lightened, mellowed. These drawings of the green space at the circus's centre, its architectural features – flights of steps, a balustrade, a bandstand-like structure – feel almost harmonious. The drawings seem less pulverised into life. Perhaps Kossoff has reconciled himself somewhat to the idea that places change and change again, and that at a certain moment of ahness we find ourselves capable of registering that flow with a touch more serenity.
Grace Dent on TVtv
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 2 Mother of newborn Baby No 59 trapped in sewer pipe told Chinese police she 'heard crying' when she raised alarm
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks